Why Is a Wild Trinity River Alligator Worth $5,300 (Or Even $5,220.50) to Texas Parks and Wildlife?

You and I are owed $5,300 for the death of this big fella, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife.
You and I are owed $5,300 for the death of this big fella, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife.

The short answer is that the 11-foot alligator that lived in the Trinity River near the Fort Worth Nature Center and was killed by a couple of rogue disc jockeys earlier this month is worth $5,300 because the state’s game wardens say so.

I wanted to know how they arrive at that figure, so I called Mike Cox, a spokesman for Texas Parks and Wildlife, today. He explained that the agency is “statutorily authorized” to seek restitution for illegal game hunting. Wildlife is considered to belong to all the people of Texas, and so poachers (as these fellows are accused of being) are expected to pay us back. That $5,300 would end up in the pocket of the state agency.

But why exactly $5,300? Do they make that number up out of thin air? If an alligator is worth $5,300, what’ll other animals run you?

UPDATE: Turns out the alligator may not have been worth $5,300 after all. See details below.

Cox, who works out of Austin, didn’t know. He’s promised to find out for me. What he could say for certain is that investigators in Fort Worth determined how much the restitution should be.

While I’m waiting for more from Mr. Cox, I poked around the Texas Administrative Code online to look for answer. I found that each illegally killed animal is scored on the basis of eight criteria to determine the “recovery value.” The criteria are: recreation (how much people like to seek out the animal, for fun), aesthetic (the species’ beauty), educational value, scarcity, environmental tolerance, economic value. A score of between 0 and 3 is noted for each of these. Those scores are then weighted according to a species’ abundance-to-public-interest ratio.

Then the overall score is applied to a fee schedule. Texas Parks and Wildlife has the ability to reevaluate these fees every year, and so I contacted them again and asked for their Tables on Computed Value of Selected Species. That was a few hours ago, and I’m waiting.

For now, I’ve only got an old breakdown of proposed restitution values, from 2004, online:

Animal Proposed
Nutria $5
Armadillo $13.50
Bobwhite Quail $26
Gray Fox $59.50
Javelina $105.50
White-tailed doe $273.50
Eastern Turkey $881.50
Ocelot (E) $1,929.50
Desert Bighorn Sheep $4,780.50
Bald Eagle (T) $11,907.50

So what have I learned for all my trouble today? That an alligator is worth more than a desert bighorn sheep, but less than a bald eagle. Well, maybe. Guess that doesn’t factor in inflation.


UPDATE: Just spoke with Brandi Reeder, assistant chief of fisheries enforcement with Texas Parks and Wildlife. She says that the criteria I list above are indeed correct, though it’s important to know that with alligators size makes a big difference in how much restitution you’ve got to pay.

Because any gator 11 feet or bigger is considered a rare specimen, there’s a huge jump in value from a 10-foot alligator to an 11-foot alligator. You’ll note it below, on the alligator restitution value chart that Reeder provided me. (The units it references are feet.)


See that once you pass 10 feet, the cost jumps dramatically from $1,281.50 to $5,220.50. So these guys in Fort Worth are really going to be wishing they’d been dealing with an animal that was a foot shorter.

Also, Reeder said the restitution should not be $5,300 for an 11-foot alligator. It should, indeed, be only $5,220.50. Either the retribution was misreported in the news articles about the fines, or that animal was actually 13 feet long.


  • mynameisbill

    Maybe, they factor in the price of all the boots, wallets, belts, and etouffee/gumbo they can make off of the gator?

  • JS

    ““It was not killed in self-defense,” Borchardt said. “It was kind of one of those things where maybe the perception was of an attack and indeed it was not that.”
    How did they determine the gator was not attacking? Interview the other alligators? Have CSI Everglades come out and determine how far away the gator was when shot?
    Cue Caruso: This case … … is in the bag. Alligator bag, that is.

  • Scott D

    The State of Texas screws over people again & black people for umpteenth time. State are a much of aholes

  • Albert

    If an eleven-foot alligator eats a four-foot kid, how much do they fine the alligator?

  • Well, there’s no question that large alligators are frequently sought out for their recreational value, so the number makes sense. I, for one, take issue with the blatant and unabashed undervaluation of Ocelots.

  • Joe

    They should pay 10 times that amount. If people think they are going to get a slap on the wrist, then what is going to stop them from killing other protected wildlife? Throw the book at those idiots.

  • Charles

    The eleven-foot alligator hunter should be given a pat on the back for a job well done. Because our own game and wildlife let this go on with out doing anything for the safty of the folks that use that lake each year. You would think that our goverment would had done something about this be for now. As for the fine there should not be one because they were not there when this all took place. So how in the world could you charge him a fine when you did not see it happen even if he admit to it he save others lives and his own.

  • gator

    If theses guys went to shore for their “artillery”, why didn’t they stay on shore and leave the alligator alone?
    If it was dark enough that they couldn’t tell a log from an alligator, it was time to go home anyway. Alligator was probably attracted by their fish stringer. Score another one for fools with guns.

  • Obama’s Seat

    None of you people commenting here are likely to swim in the Trinity, where this predator was killed. Unlikely to fish there either.

    People of lower socioeconomic status are much more likely to do both.

    Had one of them or their children been attacked by the gator, there would likely be an outcry that government failed to perform due diligence in regards to keeping our waterways safe for minority recreation.

    The men would be heroes just next door in LA, and enjoyed a tidy profit as well.

  • aalegria

    I have seen these gators at the Nature Center and I was chased by a 9 footer that was after my stringer of catfish, I hope that is what it was after. It was a crazy day and it did keep me from kayaking there for a couple of weeks.
    Mating season is from June thru August and yes the bigger males do get aggressive, these men are in the wrong for shooting a gator without tags. The Texas Parks and wildlife are also in the wrong for leaving a gator this big in public water and indangering the public. If they wanted it alive they should have rounded it up and put it back in the Nature Center. A gator this size is a danger to the public and when it wants to eat it will eat anything that moves around the water animal or human.
    Have you ever wondered why so many people drown at Lake Worth over the years due to the current (lol) that “pulls them under”

  • catherine

    Hey there SCOTT D.
    First of all, it would behoove you to use spell check.
    And why is it always about us against the black people?
    This is a protected animal. I doesn’t matter what color your skin is, if you kill a protected species you will get fined.
    At 37 years of living in Texas, it has been my experience that black people have become more racist that white people. Especially black women, they absolutely hate white women. I’ve yet to met a black woman that doesn’t give the “I’m going to beat your ass” look. But do you hear me whining about it?
    Because I don’t really care.
    If you break the law you will pay no matter what your heritage is.
    Your statement makes you come off very ignorant.